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Sculptural masterpiece by Alberto Giacometti to lead Sotheby's Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art
Alberto Giacometti, Grande tête mince (Grande tête de Diego). Conceived in 1954 and cast in bronze in 1955. Estimate $35/50 million. Photo: Sotheby's.
NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art in New York on 6 November 2013 will be led an exceptional cast of Alberto Giacometti’s Grande tête de Diego – the most ambitious in a series of innovative sculptures by the artist that personified the Existentialist movement during the Cold War. The artist's younger brother Diego served as the model for this expressive work, whose facial similarity to his brother invested Giacometti’s work of the 1950s with an autobiographical narrative.

Conceived in 1954 and cast in bronze the following year, Grande tête de Diego is estimated to sell for $35/50 million*. The work will be on view in Hong Kong, London and Moscow before returning to New York for exhibition beginning 1 November.

Simon Shaw, Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art department in New York, commented: “Of all his representations of the human figure, Grande tête de Diego is perhaps Giacometti's most radical, visually engaging and emotionally impactful. The exaggerated profile and knifeedge frontal view allow one to experience two radically different views of his brother. Along with Giacometti’s iconic L’homme qui marche, Grande tête de Diego represents the definitive expression of his aesthetic.”

The current auction record for Alberto Giacometti was set at Sotheby’s London in February 2010, when L'homme qui marche I achieved $103.9 million. That price remains the world auction record for any piece of sculpture. The most recent cast of Grande tête de Diego to appear at auction sold for $53.3 million at Christie’s New York in May 2010.

By the 1950s, Giacometti shifted his attention from the elongated figures of his post war years and turned to figural sculptures that were more naturalistic in scale. Many were heads and half-length busts, completed between 1951 and 1957 and often executed from memory. For the most part, these sculptures were solid, designed without a base, and executed with the matiére pétrie, or kneaded method, which heightened the expressiveness of the figure. In the present work, the viewer clearly can see how the artist relied on intense modeling to create the jacket and the sharp bridge of the nose.

Like the hauntingly-beautiful paintings of his brother Diego that Giacometti executed at the same time, Grande tête de Diego demonstrates the artist's fascination with the emotive power of the face. It represents his most ambitious experiment in representation and reshaping of the head, resulting in a work of art that captures multiple incarnations of the model in one single form.

The first owner of this sculpture was Richard K. Weil (1902-1996), the St. Louis manufacturer and trustee of Washington University. Weil and his wife Florence Steinberg Weil were avid collectors of modern art and major benefactors of the University's Art Department and Gallery. The couple acquired this bronze from Giacometti's European dealer Maeght in 1957 and sold it to the present owner in 1980.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium and prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium.

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